SINGAPORE – Singaporeans living overseas will be able to vote by post in the upcoming presidential election, after Parliament passed laws on Monday to ease voting for them and seniors in nursing homes here.
The amendments passed also updated rules around election advertising to increase transparency, such as by requiring such content to carry the full names of not only those who paid for but also those who approved such messages.
The changes come after General Election 2020, which was held during the Covid-19 pandemic and highlighted two key issues in the election landscape, said Minister-in-charge of the Public Service Chan Chun Sing.
First is Singapore’s rapidly ageing electorate where 21 per cent of voters for GE 2020 were aged 65 and above, compared with 14 per cent in GE 2011.
Second was how travel restrictions could make it difficult for some overseas Singaporeans to travel to polling stations or back to Singapore to vote.
Before the changes, such voters had to travel to physical polling stations in specified places to vote, a situation that resulted in some Singaporeans being unable to vote when Covid-19 travel restrictions set in across the globe in 2020.
At GE2020, there were 6,570 registered overseas voters, with 4,794 of them casting their ballots. About 200,000 Singaporeans are living overseas.
Mr Chan added that the Elections Department (ELD) plans to pilot polling arrangements in nursing homes with more than 50 voters.
This will involve 25 to 30 nursing homes and reach out to over 2,000 voters, about two-thirds of registered voters currently residing in nursing homes, he said.
The list of nursing homes selected for the pilot will be made public on Nomination Day, if the election is contested.
On online election advertising, Mr Chan said the updated laws are meant to provide clarity on the rules for online election campaigning, especially since political discourse is increasingly taking place online.
The new laws make any boosting, sharing, resharing or reposting of online election advertising subject to the same requirements as any primary advertising.
They will also require all election advertising to carry the full names of those responsible for publishing, approving, directing, printing and paying for the content.
Ms Sylvia Lim (Aljunied GRC) said during the debate that the Workers’ Party (WP) supports enabling more Singaporeans to exercise their right to vote at national elections and welcomes, in principle, changes that let more Singaporeans overseas and those in nursing homes to cast their votes.
However, she raised concerns about the amendments opening the door to electronic voting, which could expose elections to hacking.
WP MPs abstained from voting on the Presidential Elections (Amendment) Bill, given the party’s long-held objection to the office of the elected presidency in favour of its return to an appointed, ceremonial position.
In response, Mr Chan said there are no plans to introduce electronic voting for now, though this cannot be ruled out should there be future solutions that can enhance election processes.
The law is not meant to penalise people for unintentional breaches, Mr Chan said in reply to a question from Mr Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC) on whether people would be caught out for unintentional violations, such as sharing election-related content without the required information.
“In general, individuals who have breached these laws will be notified and given the opportunity to voluntarily rectify the breach,” Mr Chan said.
“Further enforcement action will be considered only if individuals do not comply.”
Source : TheStraitsTimes